A problematic Jordanian membership in the UN Security Council

"Given the frequency within which the Security Council debates Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab events, often violent ones, Jordan will be asked to make difficult choices as a Security Council member."

December 23, 2013 21:15
3 minute read.
Jordan's King Abdullah addresses UN Gen. Assembly in New York.

king abdullah at un 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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From January 1 to the end of 2015 Jordan will serve as a member of the UN Security Council, taking the seat abandoned by Saudi Arabia even before its term started. The unusual Saudi move has been interpreted as a signal of displeasure and protest at America’s negative stance on the military takeover in Egypt last July, the US recoiling from the use of military force in Syria once chemical weapons had been used and mostly what the Saudi regime viewed as a wimpish American posture towards Iran’s nuclear program.

This is a worthy membership. King Abdullah II deserves credit in every sense of the word for the way his country copes with the enormous difficulties the current circumstances on the its borders to the north, east and west create. The biggest challenge is the absorption of yet another wave of refugees finding shelter in the Hashemite Kingdom.

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Previous demographic tsunamis brought in 1948 and 1967 hundreds of thousands Palestinian refugees. Following the support both the late king Hussein and Yasser Arafat gave to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Jordanians, mostly of Palestinian origin, were banished from Kuwait itself and other Gulf states. Almost half a million Iraqis fled to Jordan in the wake of the US 2003 invasion.

The civil war in Syria drove to Jordan almost a million registered and unregistered refugees, and human traffic across the border continues. This puts the Jordanian government and economy under tremendous pressures and this is not likely to diminish as the country’s history shows us that very few of those refugees who enter Jordan ever leave. Chaos in Syria will prevail for years to come and most of the Syrian refugees are not likely to soon go back. Israel, which has a clear strategic interest in the stability of Jordan and its regime, has extended assistance to enable Jordan cope with the dire consequences of regional developments. Thus, water quantities supplied to Jordan have been increased and the two governments are likely to cooperate to meet further urgent needs.

Another potential area of cooperation is in energy. Israel could easily replace the natural gas supply from Egypt, which has been interrupted by terrorists in the Sinai who blew up the pipeline not less than 15 times, causing Jordan damage equal to two percent of its GDP.

But Jordan’s Security Council membership contains seeds of friction and tension with Israel and the US, too. The Security Council members will be called to debate the Iran issue, whether to enshrine an agreement or to adopt more stringent sanctions against Iran.

The Security Council will be required to either debate a comprehensive agreement reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians or the two more likely alternatives – no agreement at all or a partial, incremental agreement linked by a Security Council resolution to the two-states-for-two-peoples solution. Given the frequency within which the Security Council debates Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab events, often violent ones, Jordan will be asked to make difficult choices as a Security Council member.

As an Arab state with a clear majority of its citizens being of Palestinian origin, this choice will become more difficult. The Jordanian government may feel obliged to initiate debates in the Security Council on issues related yo the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and especially on Jerusalem, where Jordan maintains a special interest, recognized in the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

Such initiatives and voting patterns in the Security Council will no doubt irritate the Israeli government. Some of the government members may call for ending all forms of assistance rendered to Jordan.

The two neighbors should reduce the potential damage to their relations and interests by establishing a consultation mechanism which will deal specifically with the problems emerging from Jordan’s membership in the Security Council and will propose solutions which reconcile to the extent possible the political concerns of both Jordan and Israel. The US, too, has a clear interest in avoiding a clash and a crisis between two of its major allies in the Middle East.

The author was Israel’s ambassador in Jordan 1997-2000 and is a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at the Tel Aviv University.

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